Jun 20, 2016

Brian introduces his S scale adventure

Brian Nicholson is one of the newest members of the S Scale Workshop - but membership comes at a price. When we met Brian, he was happily working on an HO scale layout - but the lure of 1:64 was strong. He picks up the story...


An S Scale Adventure
Building a switching layout in a small space

Inspired by my participation at frequent shows with the S Scale Workshop, I decided that I would like to attempt to build a small switching layout in S scale in my spare bedroom - a space that was already occupied by an HO scale layout, which has been in operation in two places for over 20 years.

I still enjoyed switching the HO layout and didn't want to lose all the work (mostly hand laid track work). So the decision was made to build a simple 'L' shape layout over the existing HO!

The new, modular, S scale layout is located above the existing HO empire.
This ALCo S2 will eventually be repainted into ERIE RR colours

At first the idea of building to a larger scale in a small room seemed futile. But after laying out some plans I decided I would forge ahead anyway.

I layed out the complete layout full scale on my living room floor, using full size templates printed from the "Track Template Library" on the Fast Tracks website.

Planning with paper and templates

When I had a plan I was happy with, construction began in earnest.

There were some criteria I wanted to employ during construction. A few of those are listed here:
  1. The layout had to be light (the result was too light, which created some issues later)
  2. The layout had to be modular to allow trackwork and wiring to be done away from the layout room, as the height would make it difficult to work on otherwise
  3. The layout would have a scenic backdrop to enhance the feeling of distance on a very small layout
  4. The layout would have to be well lit as the single central light fixture just wouldn't be enough with the backdrop
With these rules established, construction continued. I started in January of 2016, and by the end of May the basic track work, wiring, and basic ground cover were completed.

Adding cork sheet under the tracks in the yard
Bullfrog manual switch machines (Fast Tracks) control the turnouts
Modular construction makes wiring a treat!
There's more to do, but basic ground cover
gives the modules a finished look
Static grass adds to the realism

The biggest issue was the backdrop - and how to mount it and attach it. The Backdrop Junction backdrop was mounted to plastic sheet using double sided sticky 'dots' purchased from a local art supply store. It worked great!

HDPE plastic sheet supports the backdrop. It's easy to work with.
The backdrop (Backdrop Junction) adds lots of depth to the scene.

Track lighting is the most recent addition.
With good lighting, the next steps include more scenery and more details

The layout is now at a stage where I can switch a small yard and service a few industry sidings.

Operating fun in a modest space, in 1:64

Now I can relax a bit and get to structures, painting a couple of engines, and adding trees and shrubs.

I would encourage anyone interested in getting started in S scale to take the plunge! I learned a lot. I continue to learn and enjoy the hobby and I'm inspired by the larger size. Give it a try!


(We're glad you joined us, Brian!)

Jun 9, 2016

We'll see you at the show (2016 exhibition schedule)

The S Scale Workshop has several major appearances on the calendar this year. Hopefully, we'll see you at one or more of these:

NASG National Convention
August 10-14, 2016 in Novi, Michigan.
Several members will be exhibiting our modular layout at this annual gathering of those who love to work in 1:64.

A great passion for model trains
August 20-21, 2016 in Saint-Constant, Quebec.
We return to Canada's national railway museum for their annual exhibit of model railways. (At this writing, this one's a little hard to find on the museum's website. I did find it listed in their brochure.)

Brampton Model Railway Show
October 1-2, 2016 in Brampton, Ontario.
This has turned into the region's largest model railway show, and we have just confirmed our attendance at it.

And remember: you can always find out where we're going to be exhibiting by checking out the "Visiting the S Scale Workshop" page on this blog.

We'll see you at the show: Come over and say hi!

Apr 11, 2016

CNR D-1 project (or, "It takes a village")

(HO scale model shown. S scale? It's coming!)
My friend Stephen Gardiner has been designing an HO scale model of the CNR D-1 - a streamlined motor - and its two trailers, C-1 and C-2. And from the first time I saw his drawings, I've wanted one to run on our S Scale Workshop exhibition layout.

I'm pleased to report that this project is now coming together. Stephen's HO model is 3D printed from his own drawings, and he's been graciously converting his design to S scale for me. On the weekend, he announced it was ready, and I wasted no time in placing my order with Shapeways. The body shell should arrive in about two weeks.

Stephen is still working on converting his designs for the two trailers to S scale. Meantime, another friend - Ryan Mendell - used a water jet cutter at work to cut a frame for me from a piece of .125" thick brass:

The motor and front truck are from an S Helper Service SW-1, which I purchased (used) from fellow Workshop member David Clubine. I've ordered a suitable trailing truck from American Models, plus trucks for the two trailers.

While I wait for the D-1 shell to arrive, I'll work up a list of detail parts I need to order from BTS and other sources to complete all three pieces. But thanks to the help of many friends, I'm confident the D-1, C-1 and C-2 will be rolling on the Workshop layout some day...


I'm writing more about this project on my personal layout blog. Those interested can find all the entries related to D-1 by following this category link.

- Trevor

Apr 4, 2016

Mogul Madness

In which Workshop member Jim Martin reports on some 2-6-0 progress by Andy and Paul, and provides a capsule history of a landmark S scale kit...


Andy Malette has recently shared some photos of his latest accomplishment. He has successfully completed (almost), a Canadian National E-10 Mogul kit that was offered some years back by S Scale Loco and Supply.

It has hardly been a shake-the-box kit as it has taken Andy 10 years to complete. More about that timeline a little later, but Andy tells us it’s an excellent kit.

He has added a few personal touches to make it more closely resemble number 86 when it was running out of Owen Sound, Ontario. For example he referenced Ian Wilson’s series of books to bend the bar above the cut lever just as it was back then on the prototype.

Next up will be a model of 2-6-0 number 81 which would alternate with 86 on the Owen Sound to Wiarton run. Both engines are preserved: 86 in London, Ontario and 81 in Palmerston, Ontario.
Paul Raham also recently finished one of the little Mogul kits, but look at how visually different his is.

Sixty years ago is just too new for Paul. He likes railways the way they looked a hundred years ago! (As if S scale isn’t already enough work...) Among Paul's most noticeable mods to the kit are the three-window cab sides, the slide piston steam chest, the high mounted headlight and the slat pilot.
Paul’s Moira Valley number 10, as shown on his excellent home layout, most closely represents how these engines looked as first built for the Grand Trunk, the precursor of the CNR. One of these days there must be a proper telling of the many unique locos Paul has built to ply the rails of his home pike.
The CNR E-10 Mogul:
J.T. Robbie wrote a great little history of this diminutive but remarkable loco back in the April 2010 edition of Railfan & Railroad magazine. He presented an amazing statistic: 28 percent of these engines still survive 106 years after being built. That’s 7 out of 25!
The best kept of the lot resides at the Strasbourg Railroad. At the time of the article there were three others in the U.S. with the remaining three stuffed and mounted in various qualities of preservation in Canada.
These little locos are an ideal size for small tourist railways for much the same reasons they are an ideal size for an S scale layout.
Origins of the Kit:
One has to go back about 15 years when S Scale Workshop member Simon Parent decided he wanted a couple of these for himself. He’d have to scratch build of course, so he figured it wouldn’t be too much harder to build six at once… three for Oliver and David Clubine, and one for me. On one memorable afternoon we all piled into David’s truck and drove to London and Palmerston to visit the locos in person.
Originally, Simon planned to use a combination of photo etches, cast resin parts and commercial brass castings.
But we all know how project creep works. By the time we were paying our respects to 86 and 81, Simon had already produced masters for the driver centres, steam chests and pilot. When he approached S Scale Loco and Supply in the U.S. about having castings made from his masters, owner Fred Rouse was so impressed he suggested the whole caboodle be marketed as a kit.
So when is one’s scratch is built locomotive also a kit built locomotive? When you first scratch build the kit of course!

Others were impressed, too: The collaboration between Simon and Fred earned S Scale Loco & Supply the 2003 Charlie Sandersfeld Memorial Manufacturer's Award from the National Association of S Gaugers.
These kits were never plentiful in numbers and remain in great demand, so hopefully we may see a re-release someday. I’m sure they’d also be highly bashable into near models for a number of other roads. And while at it, why not offer a frame to make a free-lance 4-4-0 out of that graceful superstructure? S Scale has been crying for a decent 4-4-0 for a long time.
Back to Andy:
So why did it take 10 years for Andy to build his first Mogul kit? Because he’s been so busy making kits and models for others.
When Andy acquired the Mogul kit, he had just released his MLW combine kit. That was followed by the coach kit and his eight-hatch reefer kit. And let’s not forget Andy’s K-3 Pacific kits, his etched number boards, and detail kits for the Pacific Rail Shops boxcar.
Andy’s finally giving himself a well-deserved rest so he can build for himself. Thanks Andy!
Thanks also to other Workshop members who have made modelling the CNR in particular a much easier task. Simon has since designed a 4-6-0 and most recently that burly 2-10-2 you’ve seen (I hope) in our video from the 2016 Copetown Train Show.
The Clubines' Ridgehill Scale Models have offered wood structure kits and resin kits for the Fowler boxcar and the CN van. Pete Moffett has offered a resin kit for the CN Scale house in Brantford, and most recently Trevor Marshall is collaborating on a 3-D printed version of CNR D-1 and its two trailers, C-1 and C-2 that may also have future commercial potential.  (Trevor's note: Thanks Jim, but I'm just cajoling Stephen Gardiner, who is doing this model in HO, to scale it up for me to S. He and some other friends - notably Ryan Mendell, who cut me a frame for this project - are the real talents in the operation!)
Our group is fortunate to have such a concentration of talented modellers who hunker down and make it themselves if someone else doesn’t do it for them. Personally I can’t wait to see who does what next.
- Jim

Mar 15, 2016

Copetown 2016 in the Rear View Mirror

(Workshop member Jim Martin reports on our exhibit at Copetown, March 5-6, 2016...)


(Click on any image to view a larger version)
The 2016 Copetown Train Show get-together is a diminishing dot in the rear view mirror. But Copetown, Ontario (population 130) is an important dot on our calendar. It’s a high-end show, in a bright and cheerful hall, in a pleasant place.

(The S Scale Workshop modular layout at the 2016 Copetown Train Show)
I think I can speak for the rest of the guys when I say this was our most enjoyable show ever!

I won’t repeat what makes this show important to so many of the more experienced model railroaders. You can reference our Feb. 25th blog post for that. But the feedback from Copetown attendees is always encouraging, given that so many accomplished hobbyists attend the show. (Thank you to everyone who stopped by to say hello.)

Simon and Brian got up very early Saturday and drove straight through from Montreal. They then had to drive straight back after takedown on Sunday. Talk about a gruelling weekend! By the way, kudos to Brian for his photography in this report.

Also, our French-Canadian buddy, Claude Demers flew up from his U.S. home just to help out this weekend. He and the Montreal guys stayed at Andy’s Saturday night.

(Andy, Simon, Frerick and Claude)
To celebrate the group’s anniversary David brought along his late father Oliver’s Grandview Co-op module. Oliver continues to be missed.

It was great having David back with us. His race car profession leaves him very little time for us through most of the calendar year, but Copetown is an event he always aims for.

S-scaler-in-waiting, Fredrick was again out to help, and to wow us with his N-scale 3D printing projects. It’s about time he showed off his talents on this blog, especially since he has offered his services for any printed S scale bits we may need. (That's a hint, Fredrick!) Fredrick did an impromptu clinic on 3D printing and attracted a lot of attention from fellow exhibitors.

Andy of course is our group stalwart, who to my knowledge has made it to every show since joining us.

And yours truly was there. My thanks to David for offering me a bed at his house. It’s safe to say we did less damage to ourselves Saturday night than all those wacky guys at Andy’s.

Rounding out the weekend, Trevor swooped in on Sunday - and brought along a miniature movie camera mounted to a flatcar. You can view the videos here:

Check Trevor's blog for more about this camera car.

It’s really mesmerizing to see one’s work from a track level perspective - and so much better than crawling along on one’s belly: Belt buckles wreak havoc with switch points.

Other S Scale enthusiasts who came out to visit include Chris Abbott, Andrew Baird, William Flatt, Neil Froese and Clayt Peter. (My apologies to anyone else I may have missed.)

I’ve already mentioned how well things worked on the weekend. After ten years we appear to be getting the hang of things. A large part of the credit may be due to Simon’s huge presence. The power supply he brought is bullet proof, his laser level was a huge help in setup, and his modules - which comprise at least half the setup - are flawless in their operation. So, no electrical glitches, almost zero derailments and yours truly managed not to run a single train (and thereby not run any switches) for the whole weekend.


As for the rest of the show there were some interesting changes this year.

- Show participants were offered a tour of area layouts Saturday morning.

- We were the only large layout at this year’s show so the rest of the hall was set up for movies, slides and clinics during the afternoon.

- Most of the vendors and manufacturers were allowed sufficient set up time on Sunday morning ahead of the public show.

Too many train show organizers allow their exhibitions to go stale: the same old thing every year. On the other hand, one has to be careful when tinkering with a still-successful formula. I think Steve Tuff and the rest of his crew did an admirable job of walking that tightrope this year.

If you have never made it to Copetown put it on your list. Will we be back next year? Maybe, but as noted above we think change is good, so we won’t be upset if another layout is invited.

- Jim

(Want to see the S Scale Workshop? Check out our events page to find out where we're exhibiting!)

Mar 7, 2016

Cab Ride at Copetown 2016

Continuing our coverage of the 2016 Copetown Train Show, here's a second video shot from the S Scale Workshop's new Camera Car. This time, we offer up a cab ride over the line:

(You can also watch this directly on YouTube, where you may be able to enjoy it in larger formats.)

You can compare the journey to the plan published in a previous posting. Again, we start by leaving the staging loops.

The camera - a Replay XD - is mounted on a flat car that's being pushed by a locomotive.

(If you missed our first video from this show of CNR 4205, you can find it here.)

- Trevor

CNR 4205 at Copetown 2016

Several members of the S Scale Workshop exhibited their free-mo style modular layout at the 2016 Copetown Train Show - March 6 in southern Ontario.

For the first time, we had a Camera Car at a Workshop event. This video captures CNR 4205 (a T-3-a class 2-10-2 built by Workshop member Simon Parent) hauling a train around the layout.

You can compare the journey to the plan published in a previous posting: The video starts as the T-3-a leaves the staging loops.

(You can also watch this directly on YouTube, where you may be able to enjoy it in larger formats.)

The camera - a Replay XD - is mounted on a flat car that's being pulled in front of the T-3-a.

We'll share more videos as time permits.

- Trevor